Don’t Waste Your Opportunity

Posted: May 29, 2011 in Revelation

Revelation 22:8-21, “Don’t Waste Your Opportunity”

One of the worst experiences in the world for our daughter is to lose her opportunity.  It sends her off into fits of grief… Can you imagine how much worse it is on an eternal question – to lose one’s opportunity forever?  The good news is that when it comes to finding our salvation in Christ Jesus (to be saved from the wages of our own sin in Hell & to experience eternal life with God in Heaven), no one HAS to lose their opportunity.  We have the invitation now – we have the opportunity before us – take it!

That’s the message the book of Revelation gives us as things draw to a close.  After a brief (but serious mistake), John is told that our decisions have eternal consequences, and that Jesus is coming back with an eternal reward – but the time to respond to Christ is now.  Don’t waste your opportunity!

So how did we get to this point?  Brief review of the book of Revelation:

  • Ch 1: the glorious vision of Jesus & the outline of the book.  Rev 1:19 – "Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this."
  • Ch 2-3: the 7 letters to the 7 churches.  Keep your 1st love – stay steadfast in persecution – repent from false doctrine – hold fast to holiness, etc…basically to stay loyal to Christ Jesus.  The refrain?  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
  • Ch 4-19: the events of the Great Tribulation & Jesus’ 2nd coming.
    • 7 seals – 7 trumpets – 7 bowls
    • Satan, the beast (Antichrist), the false prophet
    • Babylon as the harlot city that is overthrown & judged
    • Jesus comes back in glory & total victory.
  • Ch 20-21: The millennial kingdom & the eternal state.  Those outside of Christ are eternally judged when they are thrown into the lake of fire, but those in Christ experience eternal blessing & fellowship as God brings forth a new creation completely redeemed & free from any taint or result of sin.

Basically, we’re brought back to where we started.  John hears the direct words of the Lord Jesus as things wrap up & the final invitation is given.  John’s one problem is that in the midst of all of these things, he’s completely overwhelmed & he gets confused.

Revelation 22:8–21 (NKJV)
8 Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.

  • Yikes!  This is a big deal…and it’s not the 1st time this has happened.  After John witnessed the jubilation in heaven when Babylon had been overthrown, the wedding feast of the Lamb had been announced, and John fell at the feet of the angel announcing all these things to him – worshipping the angel (Rev 19:10).  Most likely, John had been overwhelmed by the sight of all these things & just lost sight of things.  John obviously did not have a heart of idolatry – but he was subject to the same temptations all of us are.
  • Idolatry is serious business.  How bad is it?  It’s antichrist/satanic behavior.  Remember that the foremost thing that Antichrist attempted to get people to do during the Great Tribulation was to worship his own image & not worship God.  The mark of the beast (666) was given as a sign that the one who bore it worshipped Antichrist.  At this point in John’s experiences – after he’s seen the end of Antichrist & all those who worshipped him – after John has seen the glorious victory of the Lord Jesus & heard all of the exhortations to worship God alone – after even experiencing the same temptation & fall earlier (Ch 19) – John does the same thing again.  John voluntarily (though unwittingly) engages in the very behavior that Antichrist will attempt to coerce people into during the Great Tribulation.  John was guilty of the exact same sin.
  • Keep in mind that when we see the work of God, it’s a natural thing for God’s people to want to worship.  We just need to ensure that we’re worshipping the right object.  We worship God; not the messenger.  All over the world, people get this backwards.  They see the glory of God in creation, so they worship the trees, sun, and stars rather than the God that created them.  People see the glory of God in the church, so they start to worship the ritual & religion rather than the God to whom the ritual is supposed to point.  People see the creativity of God in the intellect of man, so they worship intellectualism & man itself, rather than the God who made us in His image.  The very heart of idolatry is to worship the created in place of the Creator…so beware!  If it could happen to John after receiving the visions he received – after not only experiencing the direct revelation of Jesus Christ, but being one of the 12 disciples who lived with Jesus day in & day out for three years – it can happen to any of us.

9 Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

  • This was basically the same answer the angel gave him in Ch 19.  The angel isn’t worthy of worship – why?  Because an angel is just an angel.  He’s a “fellow servant” = compound word in Greek: with + slave.  IOW, the angel is right along with the rest of us: a servant/slave of God. Interesting that the angel puts himself on the same level as us.  He’s a servant, just like we’re all servants, just like the prophets are servants, just like anyone who is a Christian is a servant of the living God.  Are angels a higher form of creation than humans?  Undoubtedly so (in the incarnation, Jesus was made “a little lower than the angels,” Hb 2:9), yet in the service of God we are all on equal terms.
    • What a wonderful thing it is to be equal as servants of God!  Pastors are not held on a higher level than those in a parking ministry.  Scholars are no more important than Sunday school teachers.  Angels are not better than prophets who are not better than the people in the pews.  ALL of us have been graciously invited to serve the Living God.  No matter how we serve, what’s far more important is WHO we serve; and He puts us all on level ground.
  • Obviously John was right to respond to all of the visions in a worshipful manner – but his object of worship was wrong.  Instead of the messenger, he was to “worship God.”  How basic, yet how easy this is to forget…even among born-again believers in Christ!  Some people worship the Bible, but we are to worship God.  Some people worship the idea of worship, but we’re supposed to worship God.  Some people worship theology, but they forget to worship the One of whom the theology speaks.  The best of people under the best of circumstances can still fall into idolatrous traps.  Be diligent to worship, but be careful to worship God alone.

10 And he said to me, “Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.

  • Interesting contrast with Daniel.  Daniel 12:4, "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." []  Daniel had just been told of the Great Tribulation & of the final judgment & as his own visions came to a close, he was told to seal the prophecies.  As time has progressed, and the revelation of God was made clear in Christ Jesus, knowledge of these events indeed have increased & become more clear by the decade.
  • Why was Daniel told to seal it, but John told not to do so?  Many scholars suggest that for Daniel, it seems that the time was far off, but for the John the time was at hand.  Both John & Daniel were writing of the events of the Great Tribulation, but they were separated by several hundred years.  Of course, we look back 2000 years later & wonder if the gap between Daniel & John is really that big of a deal?  Actually, yes.  The words of the prophecy given to John were not only of use to those who will later endure the Great Tribulation; they were also current events to the churches of that day.  The Christians alive at the time needed to hear the words of the book, so John was specifically told not to seal it up for later.
    • Today more than ever – we need to study the book of Revelation.  After 2000 years, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus won’t ever return & perhaps all of the stuff that John wrote about are merely spiritual truths.  That’s NOT what this book was given!  Jesus tells us exactly as much in verse 7 – Rev 22:7, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”  We need to keep the words of this book by believing them & obeying them.  It’s tough to do that if we never open the book to find out what it says.

11 He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.”

  • At 1st glance, this verse can seem rather harsh.  After all, the Bible repeatedly calls us to repent & trust Christ.  Is vs. 11 telling us the opposite?  I.e. is it saying, “If you’re unjust, just go ahead and remain unjust so you can go to Hell?”  Surely not!  Keep in mind that the Bible is clear about the open invitation to come to Christ – even the book of Revelation is clear on this point in this very section of Scripture (vs. 17).  Not only are we invited to come, God actually commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).  So vs. 11 is not a denial of the invitation.
  • So what IS vs. 11 saying?  Simply that our response to God today has eternal consequences later.  Those who go to their death unjust & filthy will remain so throughout eternity.  Those who reject Christ will in the end be rejected by Christ.  One day the decisions we make in this life will be made final in the next.  If the warnings in the book of Revelation aren’t enough to wake a person to their own need for salvation, then not much else is going to do it.
    • The time to respond is now!  Today is the day of salvation!
  • Of course this doesn’t just speak of warning, but reward.  Those who are made righteous & holy by the grace of Christ Jesus will forever be righteous & holy.  Our righteousness will never be taken from us; it will never be lost by us.  What a glorious promise!  For eon after eon, we will forever live in perfect righteousness – never to be marred by sin again.  Wonderful!
  • Jesus explains more of the reward in vs 12…

12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

  • 3 facts about Jesus.  Fact #1: Jesus is coming.  This has been affirmed over & over in the book of Revelation – most recently in vs. 7.  How important it is to remember that when Jesus ascended to Heaven (prior to Pentecost), it’s not as if He died all over again.  Jesus may be in Heaven today, but He is there physically alive.  And because He is physically alive, we can be assured that He will keep His promise to return & gather us to Himself that where He is, we may be also (John 14:3).
    • The obvious point is that we need to be ready.  Jesus tells us from His own mouth that He is coming quickly.  We don’t know when that time will be, but when it comes, it will indeed be quick.  We won’t have time to “get right with the Lord” or rectify problems between one another.  We won’t have time to do anything else except see our Lord face-to-face.  Thus we need to always be ready to see Him.  Our Lord’s coming is imminent – would you be ready to see Him today if He came?
  • Fact #2: Jesus will reward.  Not only is Christ coming, but He is coming to judge His Church & bring His reward.  This will not be a judgment for salvation, but a judgment of stewardship – how we handled everything the Lord God entrusted to us after we came to Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:9–10, "(9) Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. (10) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." [] Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that our works don’t matter once we come to Christ – truly that’s the only time they START to matter!  Our very reward in eternity (though not our salvation) is directly tied to our works that we did in Christ, and by the power of the Spirit.
  • Fact #3: Jesus has the authority to reward because Jesus is God.  We’ve repeatedly seen the same language in Revelation – sometimes in reference to God the Father, other times in reference to the Son.  As we’ve seen so often, there’s no getting around the fact that Jesus IS God.  We find our beginning in Him – we find our end in Him – He is the source of our faith & He is the object of our faith.  Everything we have & everything we are is found in Jesus Christ, God of true God.

14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

  • The final blessing of the book of Revelation (there are 7 total).  Who are blessed?  The righteous.  Manuscripts differ a bit here.  Some read “Blessed are those who wash their robes,” – other manuscripts refer to those who do/obey God’s commandments.  (Slight variation in the Greek words used for each.)  Either way, the idea is the same.  Those who wash their robes in the blood of Jesus Christ are the same as those who keep the commandments of God.  It’s a plain reference to those that Jesus has made righteous by His own righteous work.
    • Question: “How exactly does someone wash his/her own robe or actually keep God’s commandments?  Does this imply a salvation-by-works sort of message?”  Not at all.  We are saved by the work of Christ, but that does not mean we do not do works after we come to Christ.  The only people who CAN obey the Lord are those who have been cleansed by God & empowered by the Holy Spirit.  We keep God’s commandments because we are saved; not in order to somehow earn our salvation.
    • BTW – what’s the work of God?  To believe the one God has sent (Jn 6:29) and to love one another (1 Jn 3:23).  Everything else follows from that point.
  • What is the blessing that the righteous receive?  To partake of the “tree of life” and to participate in the “city.”  IOW – all of the blessings written about in the eternal New Jerusalem – all of the promises made of the glorious freedom from sin & unfettered fellowship with God are given to everyone who is in Christ.  Those whom Jesus has made righteous have the unbreakable promise of blessing from God.
    • If you are in Christ, YOU will eat from the tree of life.  YOU will enter through the gates of the city.  This isn’t written for you to think it applies to someone else far down the line…this is a particular promise given to every single individual who has surrendered his/her life to Jesus as Lord!
  • As good as the promise is for those who are in Christ, there’s just as sure of a promise for those who are not.  See vs. 15…

15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.

  • The righteous live inside the city walls; the unrighteous will not.  Those who remain in their sin will perpetually remain outside of the blessings of God.  By the time the New Jerusalem is presented, the unrighteous will have already been cast into the lake of fire of Hell.  No more 2nd chances – never even a possibility of release.
  • Please note who’s included in this.  Sorcerers (those who attempt to practice magic) are on the same level as the sexually immoral.  Murderers are on the same level as idolaters.  Liars are on the same level as them all.  Culturally, we tend to put sin on different levels & punish them appropriately in our legal system.  (Those who perjure themselves in court get a far different sentence than a mass murderer, etc…)  Culturally speaking, that’s exactly the right thing to do & maintains earthly justice.  But from an eternal perspective, it all leads to the same place.  Eternally, it doesn’t matter if you drink a glass of cyanide or a gallon – it’s all going to kill you.  The wages of sin is death – and outside of the life that is offered in Jesus Christ, there simply is no solution.  Whether we think we’ve sinned a “little” or a “lot” doesn’t matter; the fact is that we’re dead.  We need the life that only God can give – and God only offers it through Jesus Christ.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”

  • If anyone still doubts that the book of Revelation is important to study, re-read the words of the Lord Jesus: “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches.”  God WANTS us to know these things.  The entire reason Jesus gave to John all of these visions from all of these angels was so that John would pass on the message to the Church.  This is a Revelation about Jesus Christ, and we need to know it!
  • The final description of Jesus.  He is: The root & offspring of David.  Interesting contrast here.  Typically a fruit of a plant cannot simultaneously be the root as well – but that’s exactly the case with Jesus.  Jesus is obviously the promised offspring of David…He is the one that God promised to give David as the King who’s kingdom would never end.  Yet at the same time, Jesus is the source of that promise.  Christ is the origination AND the fulfillment of the promises made by God to David.
    • How so?  Because Jesus is God.  It’s impossible to get away from that idea in Revelation.  Jesus is coming & Jesus is God!
  • Secondly, Jesus is the bright & morning star.  Elsewhere we’ve seen that Jesus is the light of the world (Jn 8:12) – His very glory will illuminate all of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:22).  This is a continuation of that idea, but a bit more as well.  Just as after a dark, stormy night the sign of the coming morning brings hope – so does Jesus bring hope.  There are dark days coming in the Great Tribulation – but Jesus is the bright & morning star.  One day those times will be over & we will forever be in the brightness of His glory!

17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

  • What an invitation!  Come!  Come to the source of salvation!  FYI, scholars differ a bit on this point.  Some scholars see a distinction between the “come” of the Spirit & bride, and the invitation to the person that thirsts.  In their view, the first “Come” is a prayer – the Spirit & bride praying that Jesus would come quickly (which He repeatedly says that He will.)  Other scholars see all of this as a multi-faceted invitation to sinners to repent & come to Christ.  Contextually, this seems to be the best interpretation as the same word for “come” is used with little distinction, other than the one speaking.  (In addition, we’d need to ask why the God the Spirit would be praying to the God the Son on the timing of His 2nd coming?)  The natural reading of the text is an invitation to sinners to come to Christ for salvation – and thus many speakers join in this chorus. 
  • The Holy Spirit says “Come!”  God Himself invites the sinner to be saved.  Part of the Spirit’s work in the earth is to show us our need for salvation.  Jesus told us that when the Spirit came, He would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn 16:8).  Through the word of God, He pricks us to the heart & shows us our need of salvation.  Through the gospel of truth, He testifies of Jesus Christ (Jn 15:26).  The Spirit says “Come,” so come!
  • The Church says “Come!”  As the bride of Christ, those who have received Jesus as Lord & Savior know of the salvation that He brings.  We know of the unbarred relationship we have with God through Jesus.  We know of the forgiveness that He so graciously & freely gives.  The Church has been given the Great Commission precisely so we can tell people to “Come” – come to Jesus & know of the salvation so many other have already experienced.
  • Those who have responded to the good news say “Come!”  It’s not just the mature saint in God who invites others to come to Christ, it’s every new believer as well.  If you’ve heard the call of God in the gospel of Jesus, then as you come to Christ, bring others along with you.  Like Andrew who had barely even known Jesus, yet still proclaimed to his brother Peter that he had found the Messiah, so can the person who hears & understand the good news say “Come!”
  • So don’t wait…come.  To everyone who thirsts, you have a standing invitation to receive of the water of life. … Psalm 34:8, "Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!" [] 
  • The warning.

18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

  • There’s a warning for those who add to the book.  Those who add to the book will find God adding something to them: the various plagues of the 7 seals, 7 trumpets, and 7 bowls.  Fierce warning to stay away from fantasies and wild speculation about the various events in the book.
  • There’s a warning for those who take away from the book.  Those who take away from God’s word will find God taking something them: any promise of salvation in eternity.  Obviously this isn’t a reference to an honest mistake in interpretation; this is a reference to willful false, misleading teaching – which would be indicative of someone who is outside of Christ to begin with.
  • Technically, this warning specifically speaks of the book of Revelation.  That said, the principle definitely applies to all of the Scripture.  Those who add to the pages of Scripture (through made-up doctrines or codes or date-setting or traditions that take priority over Scripture) tread dangerous ground…  Those who randomly decide to cut out books of the Bible they disagree with, or strike out the clear teachings of Christ are putting themselves in a terrible position…  Don’t do it!  Take the word of God for what it is: the very word of God.  The Holy Spirit did not inspire a single word in our Bibles that He did not want us to know – take it ALL in, and be careful not to take anything from it.
  • The end.

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

  • The final assurance: Jesus is coming!  Jesus calls us to come to Him – and Jesus is coming to us.
  • Even so, come” is the cry of every Christian.  We WANT to see Jesus!  The early church had the Aramaic “Maranatha!” which basically meant the same thing.  John is mirroring the phrase here in the Greek. 
    • Are you looking for His coming?  Are you reliant upon His grace?

Conclusion:
What a glorious end to a glorious book!  As the visions of Revelation conclude, John is reminded of three basic things:

  • Worship God.  John had made the mistake (innocently enough), but we all need to be reminded of his error & lesson.  As glorious as the visions in this book of prophecy are – as mind-blowing are some of the angels who delivered the message – the only One who is worthy of worship is God alone.  By all means, respond to this book in worship, but worship God!  God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit…the Triune Godhead is worthy of our worship, and we ought to freely offer it to Him.
  • Jesus is coming.  Yes, it’s been nearly 2000 years since these words were written, but they are no less true today than the moment Jesus uttered them.  He is coming quickly, and we need to be ready at all times.  May we keep short accounts with one another – may we be quick to forgive – may we walk in humility towards our God – that at all times in every way we would be ready to see our Lord face to face.  Jesus promised to come back, and His promises are unbreakable.
  • You’re invited to receive of His grace.  The invitation has gone out into all the world, and the offer is made to every man, woman, and child on the planet.  Come!  Jesus is coming back – but have you yet come to Jesus? 

What a glorious opportunity every single human being has to be saved!  That we would be saved from the eternal destruction that awaits people in Hell is truly amazing – but that God would go beyond that & save us for eternal fellowship with Him is beyond comprehension!  The invitation is there – don’t waste your opportunity!  One day it will be too late, but right now if you can hear the words of the Bible, it’s not.  You can be saved today by the grace of the Alpha & Omega, Beginning & End, and the First & Last.  Jesus has already done the work on your behalf, but you must respond to Him.

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